Dr. Christian Sawyer
Principal, Denver Public Schools
Dr. Christian Sawyer is a nationally-recognized leader and career-long educator who holds equity as his core value. With twenty years of school leadership and classroom teaching under his belt, Dr. Sawyer has led large teams of urban educators to embrace equity-minded growth; build innovative approaches to teaching and learning; and expand access, opportunity, and achievement in his schools. Highlights of his leadership include his teams' development of nationally-recognized teacher-leadership models; moving schools' achievement from "failing" to "satisfactory;" and his being named National Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year by the National Council for Social Studies.
In Denver, his school team's instructional innovation has become a district stand-out for equity-driven teaching and learning; resulting in the school's progress from "intensive tier" to "universal tier" and recognition by the Department of Justice for closing the opportunity gap for multi-lingual learners and students who have made immigration journeys. Recently, Dr. Sawyer was nominated for and completed a national principal fellowship, focused on the most advanced practices in using student learning data to close the achievement gap. In Denver, Dr. Sawyer has also risen to become a leading educator voice advocating for LGBTQ+ equity, including his leadership to organize groundbreaking presence by a school district at the Denver Pride Festival's children's zone, a transformational space where over 500 families and children were affirmed by their schools as being accepted and welcomed by their teachers, principals, and district. Honoring the importance of intersectionality and shared commitment to equity, Dr. Sawyer and his fellow principals also took a public stand, decrying the illegal actions of child separation at the border and immigration atrocities.
Prior to serving in Denver, Dr. Sawyer was a turnaround principal in Nashville Public Schools, where he and his team transformed their school from a historically "target" school to "satisfactory" standing on the district's Academic Performance Framework, through building a deep partnership with Vanderbilt University, a nationally-recognized teacher-leadership model, and growing a culture focused on social-emotional learning and restorative practices. These strategic efforts energized the teaching profile to attract some of the Tennessee's top teachers, bringing top talent to underserved schools.
Previously, Dr. Sawyer served as an assistant principal and as "Teacher in Residence" at Vanderbilt's top-ranked Peabody College of Education. Additionally, he has taught at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and was named an Atlantik-Brueke Fellow to improve German-American relations. Dr. Sawyer's innovative teaching led to his recognition as 2006 National Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year by the National Council for the Social Studies; the 2006 Tennessee Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies; a White House Fellows Regional Finalist; a 2008 Tennessee Distinguished Educator; and the "2008 Educator Award" from the Nashville Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities.
Dr. Sawyer graduated with highest distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, from the Honors Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After earning his master's degree and being inducted into the nation's oldest education honor society, Kappa Delta Pi, Dr. Sawyer earned his doctorate at Vanderbilt's Peabody College of Education in Leadership, Policy, and Organization. Additionally, he has written and edited curriculum for the Modern Red Schoolhouse Institute and other publishers, including his widely-used books on Social Studies.